Does two shows make something a tradition? If so, then the second annual Unboxing Live continued PROGRESS’ tradition of ending the year with a boat load of surprises.

Short of “there’ll be matches”, nothing was known about this show going in. Insert your choice of gag about other promotions here!

The show opened with what we thought would be a four corners tag. Well, you would think that when Moustache Mountain, Aussie Open, Chris Brookes (with another Inflatable Kid Lykos) and the Grizzled Young Veterans came out. But this being Unboxing, there was a spin… it’s be an eight-man, elimination tag team match, with the teams being picked by Trent and Tyler, since the tag champions refused to take part in these fun and games. This whole bit, including the schoolyard picking spree (which James Drake predictably came last in, losing out to blow-up Lykos, who was being pantomimed by Chris Roberts) went for over half an hour…

Trent Seven, Zack Gibson, Kyle Fletcher & “Kid Lykos” vs. Tyler Bate, Chris Brookes, Mark Davis & James Drake
To say that the madness stopped when the bell rang would be a lie. Inflatable Lykos starts off… and gets charged down by Mark Davis. You’d think the blow-up wolf would, erm, fall flat in an environment like this, but there were enough folks playing along with Lykos getting ragdolled.

Insert “it’s a wonder he didn’t get injured” joke here…

Once Lykos had been slightly let down, something resembling a regular match broke out, with Gibson and Drake trying to work together, despite being on opposing teams. It backfires when Moustache Mountain give out some airplane spins, before Trent realises he can’t squat quite as proficiently as his younger partner. We’re back to Lykos coming in, but of course Gibson no-sells it as insanity returns, as the ring fills up, with Gibson eating the CCK lungblower/back senton combo and Drake a Fidget Spinner, before both men were placed just so they’d pin each other… and that’s our first elimination.

Everyone sells as Lykos does a plancha not unlike a volleyball spike, which somehow leads to him and Brookes fighting up and into the balcony. Oh God, they’re going to get the show shut down… especially when the pair trade blows before Brookes just had enough and plunged Lykos off the balcony. Rest in Peace inflatable wolf!

Back inside, Fletcher rolls up Tyler Bate as he went for a Tyler Driver on Lykos, before lawn darting Brookes into the turnbuckles. A receipt in the form of a Praying Mantis Bomb sees Fletcher barely kick out, but he quickly submits to the Octopus stretch as Brookes made sure of it…

Lykos is in next, getting retribution for the earlier attempted murder… until Mark Davis comes in and superkicks away a brainbuster to Brookes, before obliterating him with a Zangief-like pull-up piledriver. Bye-bye wolf. Next, Mark Davis and Trent Seven trade chops – some in the form of high fives and slaps – before the Seven Stars lariat leaves us down to the final two… as Brookes and Trent resume their rivalry from earlier in the year.

More chops see Trent and Chris try to open up each others’ chests, but Trent manages to edge ahead with another Seven Stars, before his attempt at a piledriver’s counteed into Death By Roll-Up as Brookes picks up another W! Well, that was certainly a thing, all the wackiness rolled up into a not-too-tight segment. One hour, from the start of the show to the end of the match, that was! ***

Jack Sexsmith vs. Joe Coffey
You know those matches when you think “good God, why did you do this to him”? On the last regular chapter show, Jack won a title match of his choosing, so this might be more of a proving ground than a “beat him so much he can’t take a title shot”.

A lot of the match was the predictable of Jack getting thrown around with ease, as the crowd predicted Jack’s imminent demise. We needn’t have been so worried, truth be told. Sexsmith tried to take Coffey out of his game with some rather suggestive stuff, including a spot where he was sat on Coffey’s shoulders and pointed out the location of his genitals… A pounce into the ropes got Coffey in front, as did a swinging double underhook as this was pretty one-sided stuff for the former ICW champion.

A giant swing and a single-leg crab from Coffey keeps Jack on the defensive, as does a swinging wheelbarrow facebuster… which seemed to fire up Jack into a rather sweary onslaught ahead of his own comeback, featuring a wicked superkick into an onrushing Coffey.

From there, Jack reaches in for Mr. Cocko… but he has second thoughts? He throws it away as we’re back to serious Jack, who hits some Sliced Bread after his LGBDT’s blocked. The Big Double Stompy Move misses though as Coffey hits back with a shotgun dropkick, then a German suplex and a pop-up slam… but Jack’s not done, and he manages to sneak in his LGBDT afterall! The Rainbow Road destroyer follows, but Coffey catches him in a vicious Alabama slam, before Sexsmith avoids a crossface and catches Coffey in a crossface for the surprise submission! Chalk up a win for Jack, and another entry in the “he takes a kicking and keeps on ticking” chronicles as commentary were left stunned by Coffey giving up. ***¼

After the match, Sexsmith takes the microphone and gives a tearful, impassioned speech to the crowd, thanking them for sticking by him in spite of a turbulent year for him that was summed up as a mess.

Chakara vs. Candyfloss vs. Charlie Morgan vs. Sierra Loxton vs. Charli Evans vs. Millie McKenzie
The beauty of these Unboxing shows is because you don’t know what’s coming, you genuinely don’t know when the entrants are gonna stop. This was basically October’s Revelations of Divine Love tournament, minus Zoe Lucas and Jinny, all thrown into one match, with new Egyptian-themed gear and music for Chakara to boot.

While not entirely “who are these people?”, you could tell the parts of the crowd that had seen these folks at the tournament, and elsewhere at places like EVE, but there were surprisingly loud reactions for Sierra Loxton… and not so surprisingly-loud for Millie McKenzie.

Jinny’s on commentary for this one, and yeah, we’re pretty faithful to the usual multi-way formula as the ring was a revolving door for a while with folks, hitting a move then getting out, with Chakara and Candyfloss getting perhaps the most time as Candyfloss went for one of her many armbars. That series gave way to a stacked-up series of submissions, which Charlie Morgan broke up as she superkicked Sierra away instead.

Candyfloss follows up with the rather more PG version of Martina’s rope running series, as she needed a few sweets to get her energy up for a tope. Too sweet, or two sweets? Stereo dives from Millie and Charli follow, as does an Asai moonsault from Charlie… who then finds out the hard way that you can’t give Millie McKenzie a German suplex. Suplex Millie breaks out, at least until Sierra spears her as a set-up to a quintet of hip attacks as everyone had taken refuge in the corners. Their bad.

Chakara hits back with a Widow’s Peak that tweaked Loxton’s knee on impact, and it’s not long before the Parade of Moves ends with a swinging neckbreaker from Millie. Good stuff from all six women, especially when you consider the relative lack of experience in this match. If they’re this good now… heaven help us down the line! ***

Everyone but Chakara shakes hands and celebrates afterwards… did someone announce a women’s Royal Rumble on the sly? (I kid, I kid…)

12 Days Of Christmas Match: Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins vs. Clint Margera & Drew Parker
The gimmick behind this match, apart from the white canvas, was that there’d be 12 presents that could be used as weapons in this match. Such as a barbed wire Christmas tree and what looked suspiciously like a gift-wrapped TV.

This saw a pair of debuts for Clint Margera and Drew Parker. Someone saw Death House, didn’t they?

If you were expecting a technical masterpiece, then you’ve missed all of the cues, haven’t you? They’ve not changed the canvas for a World of Sport classic! Everyone got a present to start off with – ranging from Singapore canes, to cans of beer… to Lynx gift sets. Yeah, the canes get put to use from the off, as was another present… a staple gun. Who the hell is buying these presents?! Of course, the staple gun’s turned on Parker before Havoc and Haskins used their customised steel chairs to good effect. Next up was the team of papercuts and lemon juice, before they “cashed in” some present vouchers to get some tables.

Randomly, Mark Haskins grabs referee Marc Parry, who then gets his hands taped together as he’s held hostage by Vicki Haskins. All in front of the ever loving Glen Joseph, who does absolutely nothing but watch on. So without a ref in this no DQ match we get the wacky dives, all while Paz is getting lit up by Vicki. No, that’s not a euphemism, her magical barbed wire bat had fairy lights in, which just illuminated him here…

Jimmy steals some of Clint’s Kronenbourg, while Mark unwraps that TV… which was never ever gonna fit between the ropes like a chair. Shoulda gone for a smaller screen, lads. The ring crew finally return with the two tables, as requested, while Drew’s found a box full of Legos! Next up was a powerbomb into the barbed wire tree, with Haskins taking that… before Havoc finally finds a use for that Lynx gift set – by spraying the deodorant in the eyes of Margera.

Clint recovers to drop Havoc into that TV twice with death valley drivers, but guess what? Paz is still tied up with the fairy light bat to his throat. As soon as the tables turned, of course Havoc and Haskins wanted Paz untied, but it took too long, and Margera was able to kick out from the Kiss of Death (think an Indytaker mixed with the Dudebuster) onto the Legos.

Drawing pins come out as Parker gets his hands stomped into a mixture of pins and Legos, before taking a pair of death valley drivers into the mix for a two-count as Paz still had his hands crossed together. Margera returns, but gets acquainted with the death mat after swinging his cane into the crowd, before Havoc hits a back senton off the middle rope… and crashes into the death mat instead.

Things swing around as Parker gets a Benadryller to Havoc, before Margera smashes a chair with a death valley driver on Haskins… that looked like it sucked big time. Havoc gets a receipt of sorts as he bounces Clint off the apron and onto a table with a death valley driver. Altogether now Maffew…!

Vicki gets involved as she flings her barbed wire Christmas bat of doom at Parker… and that led to the end as Drew caught it, only to eat an Acid Rainmaker as Havoc and Haskins chalk up another win. As to whether we see the deathmatch kids in PROGRESS again… who knows? A pretty fun match that didn’t use plunder for the hell of it, but I’d hope that 2018 establishes a lot more with these guys rather than them being miserable sods! ***¼

Flash Morgan Webster vs. Rampage Brown
After returning in Sheffield, Rampage was back – again with an over-dub – for his first appearance in London in over a year. The last time he was in Camden, he was defending the Atlas title against Bad Bones… ah, how time flies!

Here, he was the second man to be in a “you’re gonna kill the other guy” match after Joe Coffey earlier. Flash looked rather perturbed here, almost like he knew this was a bridge too far, and when his early offence consisted of shoulder blocks that saw him bounce off of Rampage, could you blame him?

Some headscissors took Rampage outside, but when he returned he easily caught a leapfrog and turned it into a scoop slam as Flash was just getting brutalised here… as was the 12 Days of Christmas, which meant that everyone serenading the “12 Days of Rampage” was just prolonging Flash’s misery. See, we did miss him afterall!

A back body drop and a spinebuster keeps Flash on the back foot, but he did manage to mount a little offence, courtesy of the Rude Boy moonsault press. His choice for a backslide was perhaps ill-advised, as Rampage shrugs it off and chains in a powerbomb and a lariat, but he’s able to come in with a Pinball Wizard senton and some Angels’ wings for a near-fall that was decidedly against the run of play.

Flash tried to follow up with a top rope ‘rana, but it’s caught and turned into a murderising powerbomb for a near-fall, before the piledriver bounced Flash into the mat for the win. Perhaps a little disjointed given the chanting in the middle, but this was a statement squash if there ever was one. Welcome back to the Ballroom, Rampage, hopefully we’re not waiting 14 months for the next go around! ***

Having come up short yet again, Flash sought the microphone and announced that he was taking time away from PROGRESS so he could figure out what he has to to do succeed.

PROGRESS World Championship: Travis Banks (c) vs. Will Ospreay
When Travis Banks came out first, in the semi-main event you had to figure it’d be a big name opponent.

For the first time since March, we saw Will Ospreay in a PROGRESS ring, and he walked straight into a title match. Fancy that! Then again, when you’ve got a list of accomplishments like Ospreay, I guess you get a free pass every now and then.

They flew out of the gates here with forearms and chops a-plenty, before Ospreay dumped Banks onto his head with a ‘rana early on. Ouch. A barrage of kicks from both sides keep things going, as there’s a lot more heavy strikes being thrown… hey, was James Musslewhite on-hand for the red-chest pics? Ospreay’s able to break the flow of chops with a handspring enziguiri off the ropes, before tripping Banks for an intended dropkick… and instead switching up for an over-the-top rope 619 before getting that Shibata dropkick in. Not to be outdone, Banks goes to the outside with a tope, but Ospreay keeps him out there and decides to top that… Space Flying Tiger Drop!

Back inside, Banks nearly spikes Ospreay on his head with a double stomp before flying Coast to Coast. Ospreay hits back, only for his Cheeky Nando’s to be escaped as Banks fires in with a huge lariat as things get too quick to call, with Banks eventually dumping Will onto his head once more with a lariat. A Spanish fly on the mat quickly resets things though, as both men are forced to pull themselves back for another go around.

Ospreay rattles off a series of forearms in the corner… but Banks just zombies up and waffles Will in retaliation, before taking a reverse ‘rana… but a whirlibird powerbomb almost ending things. More back and forth sees Ospreay hit a Bloody Sunday and a running shooting star press… only for a corkscrew splash to see him land into a Lion’s Clutch! Will holds on, and manages to get back to his feet, before dragging himself up to the corner.

Not to break the hold, but to climb up with Banks in a piggyback to splat him off the top rope. Hey, it worked!

We’re back to the blows here, with forearms, headbutts and various flurries somehow getting both men back to their feet, before Ospreay’s Rainmaker… just clunks into Travis Banks. Oops. Travis grabs wrist control as he rains down stomps on Ospreay, who finally gets that lariat off in the end before decapitating Banks with a swinging elbow to the back of the head.

Banks rebounds with a Kiwi Krusher for a near-fall, but a Slice of Heaven’s countered into an Oscutter as Banks rolls to the floor to save the match. Undeterred, Ospreay throws Banks back in and headed back up top… but he just takes a ‘cutter from a shooting star press, before getting caught in another Lion’s clutch as Ospreay’s forced to tap! Holy hell that was even better on second viewing, with Banks perhaps solidifying his championship run with this one bout. Unboxing Live 2 was a long shot, but you really ought to seek it out for this one match alone… ****½

This might sound petty, but I like it when folks stick to stipulations. Or at the very least try and make an explanation as to why there’s been a U-turn. Ospreay’s been booked for the next PROGRESS show, against the debuting Adam Brooks, so… I assume there’ll be at least a token effort for the sticklers?

Anyway, after the match Will heads to the back as Travis Banks thanks the crowd some more and promises to defend his title against any and all comers in 2018. During that match, one of the strobe lights was going off randomly, which might have been a cue… Keep It 100?!

It’s not quite the same reaction we had back in July, but TK Cooper is back, with his usual ridiculous dungarees. He’s still not going to be cleared for a few more days, and he stakes his claim for a shot “some time in 2018”.

So, if the PROGRESS title’s not main eventing… what is? Well Pete Dunne’s out first with his WWE UK title… and. GOOD HEAVENS. It’s not quite Les Toreadors as we have some recently-deployed WWE music and, it’s… a Gentleman?! For the second match in a row, the Ballroom was stunned.

WWE United Kingdom Championship: Pete Dunne (c) vs. Jack Gallagher
I was one of the few who were predicting this on the sly… the “make good” after the match meant for New York had to be cancelled due to injury. So the Electric Ballroom becomes the second building in England (after Norwich’s Epic Studios) to witness a WWE UK title defence.

Gallagher slaps Dunne as we start off with a barrage of forearms, and it’s Gallagher who’s the aggressor in the opening stages, throwing Dunne into the turnbuckles early on. Jack settles into an armbar as the pair looked to ground the other, but Dunne reverses it as he begins his usual tactic of small joint manipulation.

There’s a neat bit where Dunne powers away as Gallagher tried to stomp his knees into the mat, but they end up heading outside as everyone got an up-close view of the two courtesy of some brawling, culminating with a crossbody from Gallagher into Dunne in the crowd. In response… Dunne grabs the moustache and chops Gallagher into the crowd for an instant receipt.

They stay outside the ring, with the two brawling up to the stage as Gallagher just kicks out at the champion… before he throws forearms that led to the eventual receipt that sent him knocking back through the curtain. Eventually it’s back into the ring, where the pair start to slap each other some more as Dunne suckers in Gallagher… and it costs the challenger as a belly-to-belly out of the middle rope puts the champion back in control.

An enziguiri in the corner and a Tiger suplex nearly ends it for Dunne, who them has to fend off another fightback from Gallagher… sending him crashing with a forearm into the corner. The double stomp follows, as does a sit-out powerbomb, before a Bitter End’s turned into a guillotine by Gallagher! Not to be outdone, Dunne powerbombs out and into an armbar, but that too is reversed into an ankle lock from Gallagher as both men seemed to be throwing out their big guns.

In Gallagher’s case, literally, with a huge headbutt, before his corner dropkick was caught and turned into a powerbomb. Good Lord!

The tempo stays high with an apron DDT from Gallagher, who followed up with a diving torpedo headbutt into Dunne… but he took too long in following up as he dove into the boots of a downed Dunne, before trying to cheat his way to a win with a roll-up with his feet on the ropes. Hey, a call-back to their last match here! Undeterred, Gallagher rolls Dunne into the bulldog choke, a la Brian Kendrick, but Dunne manages to free himself with a spot of biting.

Another headbutt breaks the bite, with the dropkick in the corner this time connecting for a near-fall, but it wasn’t to be as Dunne hits back, landing a Bitter End, before chaining a second one into a Tombstone for the win. Holy hell, there’s two late shouts for your match of your year ballots, and they were both matches that very few could have called going into the show. ****¼

Hey, guess how the show ends? Callum gets kicked in the balls again… and I’ll buy that as Peter’s official face turn!

Those who’ve been nearer the wrestling scene than I may note that this was a fine comparison between how WWE’s handled both of these guys since they put pen to paper. Last time these met, it was at the Ballroom back in April 2016, in a WWE Cruiserweight Classic qualifier… and the paths these two men have taken, whilst similar, have led to a rather different outcome. One went to WWE full-time and – some could argue (although I would not) has cooled down despite being a regular part of 205 Live – while the other has stayed on the independent scene and stayed hot. That’s not a criticism of anything or anyone, just an observation, and one that’s backed up by that ongoing narrative about how WWE’s promotional machine perhaps isn’t as well oiled as it once was.

So, PROGRESS’ 2017 ends with a wacky show that encapsulated their year – a lot of randomness, plenty of good wrestling, and some moments that mixed joy and infuriation all into one bundle Of course, Unboxing Live was never meant to be a statement show where massive stories would start or end, but nor is it a “canon-free” show. This perhaps isn’t a good show to start with, but it’s certainly one you ought to make time for before you submit any best of 2017 ballots!

  • “Chapter 60 – Unboxing Live” is available now via – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.